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Ports of LA and Long Beach Replace Harbor Locomotives with Clean-Diesel, LNG and Hybrid

The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and Pacific Harbor Line (PHL) have tentatively agreed to launch a $23-million program to replace the aging fleet of 18 harbor locomotives with clean-diesel, alternative-fuel and hybrid locomotives.

Under the pact, PHL would replace aging diesel locomotives—some more than 50 years old—with 16 locomotives equipped with new diesel engines that exceed EPA Tier 2 standards for reduction of air pollutants. In addition, PHL would acquire one locomotive fueled by LNG, and another incorporating hybrid diesel-battery technology.

The tentative pact goes to the Long Beach and Los Angeles Harbor Commissions in the coming week for a vote.

The 18 replacement locomotives will reduce annual emissions by an estimated 163 tons of NOx and 3 tons of particulate matter.

Switching out these older locomotives with newer ones will result in a 53% reduction in NOx emissions and a 45% reduction in particulate matter emissions per locomotive.

—Port of Los Angeles Interim Executive Director Bruce Seaton

Under the tentative accord, the ports will each pay as much as $5 million toward the estimated $23 million cost to replace the PHL locomotive fleet, with the balance coming from PHL and a $3.2 million AQMD Carl Moyer grant.

PHL will use cleaner-burning emulsified diesel fuel in its new diesel locomotives. In addition, the existing fleet of older locomotives also will use emulsified diesel fuel during the transition period, thus yielding immediate air quality benefits.

(Emulsified diesel fuel is a mixture of diesel fuel with water and emulsifying and stabilizing additives. Depending on the application, the water content may vary from 8%-35%, with a typical 13% water formulation for diesel engine use.)

In addition to the test on the alternative-fuel locomotives, PHL will be testing diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs) on the locomotives. If they prove effective, PHL will use them on all locomotives.

All additional locomotives that PHL acquires for use at the two ports must also meet stricter future standards for fuel use and exhaust emissions.

The replacement program is part of a new 10-year extension of an agreement between the ports and Pacific Harbor Line, a private company that since 1998 has provided railroad switching services to customers in the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. PHL also dispatches all BNSF Railway and Union Pacific trains within the ports.



These public/utility projects at the city/county level are great... but how much of a contribution to fuel usage / electrical usage / NOx / COx pollution are they contributing (in aggregate) in the first place?

Sure, we've got to start somewhere, and these can often be a proxy for public support for making things better in other places. But still, I feel like we're putting a band-aid over a papercut on a finger on our left hand while ignoring the fact that our right arm has been lopped off at the shoulder.

Jesse Jenkins

Stomv, remember that these new technologies (hybrid-diesel technologies etc.) are not marketable to consumers unless they reach prices that are competitive with existing technologies and this (usually) doesnt happen until they reach an economy of scale which in turn doesnt happen (without intervention) unless they are competitive and sell large numbers. Its a vicious cycle for new technologies to overcome. Both government incentives and these smaller scale municipal/local/state programs help move the technology along in its precompetitve stages, helping it reach an economy of scale where it can be mass marketed to consumers. So these partnerships, while having a small impact on actual emissions etc. do serve an important purpose. The also serve to publicize the existence and reliability of alternative technologies - if you see your postal carriers/meter readers/etc driving around in hybrid cars and your buses/locamotives/lightrail transit/etc. driving past with CNG or hybrid or electric engines you start to trust that these techs are reliable. If your government uses them, they must be good right? Anyway, yes these partnerships are only a start, but they are a good start.


One wonders if the hybrid loco is a Green Goat or if it will be one of the models from GE (the news release says nothing about vendors).

Modern locos have higher thermal efficiency than the ancient models in use, and the hybrid is likely to be able to use regenerative braking.  These units will not only be cleaner, they'll use less fuel - and if a Green Goat is used, it may be able to use power from solar or even wind turbines up the valley by Palm Springs.

Robert Schwartz

My understanding is that railraod locomotives have used "hybrid" diesel electric technology for years.

The real issue is that the port is a tremendous source of polution, particular particulates, for the LA basin because the ships docked there keeps their engines (diesel, I believe) running in order to be able to power the ships. They could require the ships to shut off their engines and connect to local power supplies, but that would require a lot of investment by the port and the ship owners, which none of them are happy to undertake.

There was a W$J article on the whole mess last winter, (around new year IIRC) but I do not have a URL or a subscription to the on-line journal.


Diesel-electric is not hybrid; it has no storage.

Joe Deely


California has made tremendous progress in improving air pollution from mobile sources. (Cars) There are also new rules that will be coming into place that will lower mobile pollution more over the next fifteen years. Heres a chart from Air Resources Board..

California Air Resources Board 2005 Almanac (web)
Chapter 3 Statewide Table 3-1
Statewide Emissions (tons/day, annual average)
Pollutant 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020
NOX 4811 4982 4945 4871 4128 3629 3026 2499 2059 1811
ROG 7131 6739 6180 4748 3691 3013 2402 2145 2031 1993
PM10 1901 1931 2004 2144 2047 2061 2113 2177 2234 2298
PM25 803 785 778 816 758 767 779 796 811 829
CO 41295 37609 35588 29603 22182 16906 13204 10848 9213 8248

So, its time to move on to improving more stationary sources of pollution.. like the ports, dairies, power plants etc...

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